The Ailey Company celebrates Robert Battle’s Inaugural Season as Artistic Director

by kristen irby

In celebration of Robert Battle’s inaugural season as Artistic Director, the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater hosted their opening night gala benefit at the newly renovated New York City Center.  This one-night only performance featured Judith Jamison’s IF IT’S MAGIC with a live performance by John Legend, the company premiere of Paul Taylor’s ARDEN COURT, Lar Lubovitch’s sensuously seamless duet PRELUDE TO A KISS (performed by the prodigious Clifton Brown and Linda Celeste Sims) and Alvin Ailey’s masterpiece REVELATIONS, performed with live music and a cast of 50 including members of the AAADT, Ailey II and students from the Ailey School as young as 7 years old.
Guests included Honoree Kimberly B.Davis, President of JPMorgan Chase Foundation, beauty mogul Iman, AAADT Artistic Director Emerita Judith Jamison, Paul Taylor, former Paul Taylor dancer Carolyn Adams, Joan & Sandy Weill, Herb & Simin Allison, Carmen de Lavallade, Dudley Williams, Delores Brown, legendary opera singer and recitalist Jessye Norman, yours truly and a gaggle of enthusiastic revelers.
In his welcoming speech to a sold out audience Mr.Battle engaged with humorous banter and unyielding charm.  Suddenly, the formal gathering felt more like a speakeasy rather than a black-tie event with tickets ranging from $500-$5000 per person.  Battle spoke tenderly of a beloved uncle who passed away years before he was able to see his young nephew as the man he is today, the third person to lead the Ailey Company artistically, after Alvin Ailey and Judith Jamison, since the company debut in 1958 at the 92nd Street YM-YWHA in New York City.  
Alvin Ailey with Judith Jamison
Robert Battle, Artistic Director of the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater
The lithe Alicia Graf Mack, with her characteristic grace and high-reaching extension, danced Ms.Jamison’s choreography to the accompaniment of John Legend, who held court at his piano performing a rendition of Stevie Wonder’s IF IT’S MAGIC.  
Paul Taylor’s ARDEN COURT (1981) was ably danced by members of the Ailey Company.   Here, the sinewy Samuel Lee Roberts stood out with his gravity defying ballon.  Other notable performances included that of the vigorous Marcus Willis and the dynamically commanding Kirven James Boyd.  Mr.Taylor eagerly joined the dancers onstage for the curtain call.  He beamed with delight! 
Arden Court
Kirven James Boyd
Iman, ravishing in a red Zac Posen evening gown, delivered a rousing introduction to the second half of the performance.  She spoke passionately with piercing diction and thunderous, rolling R’s.  As she disappeared into the wings, of which she floated into, a collective whisper of astonishment fell over the audience as if a phenomenon had been beheld.
I was slightly bewildered to see so few dancers onstage for the opening section of Ailey’s REVELATIONS, “I’ve Been ‘Buked.”  Subsequently, after several young children joined members of the AAADT, I felt my heartstrings being pulled.   Before I had a chance to collect myself the stage was overflowing with dancers.  I was quite pleased with how effortlessly the Ailey School students and members of Ailey II were integrated into REVELATIONS.  The students and members of Ailey II danced with joyful exuberance and precision.  Many compliments to Melanie Persons and Tracy Inman, Co-Directors of the Ailey School, for not only delivering Mr.Ailey’s enduring legacy to a new generation of dancers but for also continuing the diligent work of the late Denise Jefferson.
After the performance invited guests sauntered to the Grand Ballroom of the Hilton Hotel for dinner and dancing.  
Carmen de Lavallade and Dudley Williams.  
 In 1962, the company was known as The De Lavallade-Ailey American Dance Company on its first tour to the Far East, Southeast Asia and Australia.
Judith Jamison
AAADT dancer Akua Parker with Dr.Joyce Brown, President of the Fashion Institute of Technology
AAADT dancer Marcus Willis looking fine and dandy in bow tie and suspenders
AAADT Director of PR Christopher Zunner with AAADT dancer Aisha Mitchell
Jessye Norman getting it in!  When I saw Ms.Norman on the dance floor I nearly lost it!  I broke into a sweat instantly.  Hollie Wright made fun of me for about twenty minutes afterwards.  I don’t normally get starstruck but hellooooooo….it’s Jessye Norman!
The color is green…
but not with envy! 
Delores Brown Abelson, former ballerina with the American Negro Ballet.  Mrs.Brown Abelson taught weekly ballet classes while I was a member of the Philadelphia Dance Company.  She’d walk into the studio as if she’d just had a full beauty treatment adorned in pink ballet slippers, pink tights, a pink cardigan, a pink ballet skirt and a pastel colored leotard. I’ve never seen her with the same handbag twice!  She found this statement piece while on holiday in Berlin
Bill Cunningham taking a picture of me as I’m taking a picture of him!
Bringing sexy back…with a sparkling, studded boot!  
Photographer Dario Calmese with Broadway darling Hollie Wright
AAADT dancers Rachel McLaren and Samuel Lee Roberts-in a custom leather blazer-with Robert Battle
Rachel McLaren, Robert Battle, Kristen Irby (the Gucci blazer strikes again)
AAADT dancer Ghrai DeVore looking divine in a metallic, vintage inspired gown.  Ghrai celebrated her 22nd birthday last night.  I wanted to execute a birthday split for her but I didn’t want to tear my pants or compromise my Yves Saint Laurent Johnny boots
AAADT dancers Demetia Hopkins and Guillermo Asca.  Demetia’s dress was designed and constructed by AAADT dancer Jermaine Terry.  Demetia gets the Kristen Irby Award for Astonishing Couture Curiosities.  Love it…
Corin Wright and AAADT dancer/designer Jermaine Terry in ruffled tuxedo shirt.  ”I can get my leg up and I can make fierce dresses,” said Terry.  I’m kidding!  He didn’t say that…
Jermaine Terry gets the Kristen Irby Award for Renaissance Man in Ruffles
AAADT dancer Jacqueline Green starring as Stunning Simplicity
AAADT dancer Megan Jakel in a navy blue velvet gown with cut-out detail around the waist
AAADT dancer Kanji Segawa with his wife, choreographer Jessica Lang
AAADT dancers Kirven James Boyd and Antonio Douthit.  Kirven is wearing a Barneys private label tuxedo and Antonio is wearing Theory
Member of Ailey II
Founding member of Battleworks Dance Company Erika Pujic in black and guest
AAADT dancer Micheal McBride and guest
Antonio Douthit, Mr. & Mrs.Mack with Jayte Taylor. 
AAADT dancer Akua Noni in another design by Jermaine Terry
The Ailey Company will be performing at New York City Center now through January 1, 2012. 

Thanks Kristen!
Please visit regularly for more fabulous treats.